Common Interview Questions
Although you never really know what you are going to be asked at an interview, there are common questions that are often used so it may be helpful to make yourself familiar with them and practice how you would answer them.
"Tell me about yourself"
This is perhaps the most open-ended question of them all and is typically used by interviewers as a warm-up question to give you the opportunity to shine. But resist the temptation to start talking about your life history. What your interviewer is looking for is a quick two or three minute snapshot of who you are and why you are the best candidate for the job. So keep your response relevant to the position you are applying for. For example:
I am currently a student at Skegness Academy sixth form studying A level History, BTEC Law and Personal Business and Finance. I am due to leave in July this year but have decided that I do not want to go to university as I want to get a job in banking and work my way up. Alongside my studies I have worked in the Seaside shop for the last three years. At the Seaside Shop I have gained vital retail experience and have progressed from stock replenishment to successful sales assistant and now supervise the team at the weekends and during the holidays. In this role I support the staff team, train new staff on policies and procedures and close up and cash up at the end of the day. In my spare time I am a keen sportsman and play football for my local team who are second in the league. To keep up my fitness for this I also go to the gym four times a week. Due to my role in the football team I often take part in fundraising events to raise money for local charities.
“Why do you want the job?”
This question is asking what your motivation is and how dedicated you are to the job. It can also show the employer how well you can apply your skills and experience to the requirements of the job. For example:
Having really enjoyed doing Business and Finance over the last two years and realising this is a strength of mine I believe that I would do well within the banking industry. I have done a great deal of research into careers in banking and although I am predicted to leave sixth form with 360 UCAS points and have considered university, I want to go straight into a job after leaving school. I know your company offer excellent school leaver programmes and training for the right candidate and feel that learning and working at the same time would be more beneficial and also make the best use of my skills and enthusiasm.
"What motivates you?"
Short of telling your interviewer that you are motivated by the prospect of earning a footballer's salary, driving a Ferrari or having a holiday home in Ibiza, try and give a constructive answer that will excite your interviewer into understanding what benefit you will bring to his business.
I get a real kick out of seeing my manager surprised at our takings when we exceed our sales targets at work especially when the season has been so slow. Also I genuinely like to keep my customers happy by making sure they get a good service and go away pleased with their purchases.
"Why should we hire you?"
This can be a killer question and can make or break your chances of winning the job. And how you answer will depend on how well you have probed your interviewer about their requirements and expectations. So what the interviewer is really asking you is, What can you do for my business? Your response needs to answer that question. For example:
I understand that a role in banking requires strong numeracy and analytical skills which I have gained through my vocational course in Business and Finance. This course helped me develop a good understanding in analysing finances and the wide range of financial products available to individuals and businesses. I also really enjoy working with figures and have a B in GCSE MATHS. My other courses also helped me develop good time management and attention to detail. I am predicted top grades of distinction* in my BTEC courses and a B in A level History. My attendance at school has been 100% so am dedicated to achieve my potential. Also my part time job in a busy seasonal outlet helped me develop excellent customer services skills and also the ability to work well under pressure. All skills I believe would help me to work for you.
"Why did you leave your last job?"
You know this question will be asked at some stage, so have your answer ready in advance. The rule of thumb is to always remain positive about your current and previous employers because you never know when your paths may cross again. Besides, who are you going to turn to for a reference? For example:
I learned a lot from my previous employer and enjoyed my time there. However, promotional opportunities were few and far between and I am keen to advance my career and enter the industry where I see a bright and successful future for myself.
“What are your strengths?”
This seems an obvious question however we do not often feel comfortable blowing our own trumpet and actually saying what we are good at. Here this is exactly what you must do. This is where it is so important to know yourself and what your skills and qualities are. By understanding what the job requirements are and what the role involves you can choose your best strengths to suit the position to show that you are the best candidate for the job.
I am a people person and have excellent communication skills both written and spoken. My job at the Seaside shop means that I meet people of all ages and from very different backgrounds. I really enjoy working with the public and providing them with the best service so that they go away happy. My ability to work unsupervised and on my own initiative helped my promotion from sales assistant to team leader in my part time job. I know that a job in banking will mean meeting targets so my enthusiasm and pro active approach to work would help me to achieve this.
"What are your weaknesses?"
Career manuals abound with ways to tackle this question. And most of them seem to suggest that you should take one of your strengths and portray it as a weakness. For instance, I work too much. But this will actually work against rather than work for you because it may imply that you do not organise your workload effectively, or that you have poor time management skills. Instead, opt for a genuine weakness. For example:
I used to struggle to plan and prioritise my workload. However, I have taken steps to resolve this by staying organised and have now started using a diary system on my laptop to plan better.